Follicles

Roberta Beary

Dad’s arms cross over his chest like some prison guard at Rikers.

‘I’m looking forward to seeing you at the beach in August. It’s a shame we don’t have room for your friend.’

’His name is Callum. Funny how you still can’t say it after two years.’

Dad points at Ryan. I’m not allowed to tell Ryan that Callum’s my boyfriend. On account of my step-mom telling Dad that Ryan might catch my disease.

‘Callum asked about coming to the beach this year.’

Dad lets out a yelp. Like that time Noodles bit him. He pulls Ryan close, covering his ears.

‘For God’s sake, shut up Bobby.’

My dad calls me Bobby when he loses his shit. I feel his eyes on me and they’re screaming a word I can’t say, one he called me every day when I was in middle school. I call ‘em as I see ‘em Dad said then. Even though my dad says this next part never happened, when I was 12 he made me go to this doctor. The doctor strapped a big magnified light above his eyes and bent my head. His hands smelled like soft vanilla ice cream too long in the machine. Something sharp made tiny circles on the back of my head. It felt weird but I didn’t bleed or anything. The doctor called my dad in and said yes, you were right. Then he ran his fingers through my hair like Callum does when he thinks I’m sleeping. Later I looked it up. Turns out there’s this test. It means one thing if a boy’s hair whorls clockwise and it means another if it whorls counterclockwise. After that I always wore my Yankees cap. Around my dad.

Ryan pulls away from Dad and walks to the window where his reflection catches up to mine. I don’t need any help seeing which direction Ryan’s hair whorls. I take off my cap and pass it to him, even though we both know he’s a Mets fan. Ryan puts it on back to front. We stand side by side. Staring at the full moon. Our shoulders barely touching.

Roberta Beary lives in Co. Mayo, Ireland. Their work appears in Tiny Love Stories: True Tales of Love in 100 Words or Less (New York Times, 2020) and One Breath: Notes from the Reluctant Engagement Project (Doire Press/ Clan Beo, 2021) which pairs their writing with artwork by families of people with disabilities.